Smithsonian Celebrates American Indian Heritage Month

October 16, 2015
News Release

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The Smithsonian invites the public to celebrate American Indian Heritage Month throughout November with a series of performances, lectures, exhibitions, family activities and tours at various museums around the Smithsonian. All programs are free unless otherwise indicated. For a full calendar of events, visit

Feature Event

The Smithsonian will present “Ceramics! An American Indian Heritage Month Celebration” Nov. 14–15, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the National Museum of the American Indian. This two-day, museum-wide event will showcase the many ways that Native communities express themselves through clay. Visitors can watch demonstrations of pottery techniques and learn about other uses for ceramics: protecting seeds, cooking and much more.


The National Museum of the American Indian presents “Seizing the Sky: Redefining American Art,” a Nov. 5 panel discussion from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; the discussion focuses on Kay WalkingStick and other contemporary Native artists who are redefining American art. Following the talk, the audience is invited to a reception and preview of the exhibition “Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist.”

Held in conjunction with the exhibition “Commemorating Controversy: The Dakota–U.S. War of 1862,” the National Museum of the American Indian will host “The Dakota–U.S. War of 1862: A Symposium of Remembrance” Nov. 19 from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The symposium examines the lasting consequences of a conflict that led to the exile of the Dakota people from their homeland. The day concludes with a screening of the film Dakota 38, introduced by co-director Sarah Weston.


The National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center in New York City will screen Rebel Music: Native America Thursday, Nov. 5, at 6 p.m. The MTV documentary highlights stories of young musicians and artists rising up against social and political barriers and overcoming oppression and injustice around the world. The evening includes a discussion and a musical performance. The Heye Center will also screen Edge of America Saturday, Nov. 7, at 6 p.m. Inspired by a true story, this upbeat feature follows a New Mexico girls’ high school basketball team as they climb from the bottom of their division to compete for the state title. After the screening, visitors can stick around for a discussion with director Chris Eyre (Cheyenne/Arapaho) and actors DeLanna Studi (Cherokee) and Eddie Spears (Lakota).

Bring the Kids

Young visitors and their families can drop into the National Portrait Gallery for the museum’s Portrait Story Day Series. Visitors can participate in an art activity after listening to a story about a famous Native. This event is presented in partnership with D.C. Public Library and sponsored in part by the Reinsch Family Education Endowment.


Portrait Story Days: Pocahontas

Saturday, Nov. 7; 1–4 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 8; 2–5 p.m.


Portrait Story Days: Sequoyah

Saturday, Nov. 14; 1–4 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 15; 2–5 p.m.


Portrait Story Days: Chief Joseph

Sunday, Nov. 22; 2–5 p.m.


Portrait Story Days: Sitting Bull

Saturday, Nov. 28; 1–4 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 29; 2–5 p.m.


The Navajo, or Diné, culture of the Southwest is the focus of this year’s American Indian Heritage Month Celebration at the National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center in New York Saturday, Nov. 14, 1 p.m.–3 p.m. The day includes rug and basket-weaving demonstrations and a presentation on Navajo pottery and jewelry making. There will also be special tours of the exhibition “Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family.”

The Anacostia Community Museum invites families to create traditional Ojibwa dreamcatchers Saturday, Nov. 21, 2–4 p.m. Artist and educator Camilla Younger will lead the workshop. Registration for the program is at or 202-633-4844.

The Comanche Nation will present a three-day, museum-wide festival Nov. 26–28, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m., at the National Museum of the American Indian. The festival includes music, dance, storytelling and demonstrations of shawl weaving, beadwork and bow-and-arrow construction. On Friday, Nov. 27, visitors can join the Comanche Nation in a celebration of Native American Heritage Day.


On Saturday, Nov. 7, the National Museum of the American Indian opens the first major retrospective of the career of Cherokee artist Kay WalkingStick. “Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist” features more than 65 of the artist’s most noted works (paintings, drawings, small sculptures and diptychs), including recent painting of monumental landscapes and Native places. The exhibition runs through September 2016.

“Dark Fields of the Republic: Alexander Gardner Photographs, 1859–1871” is on view at the National Portrait Gallery. Best-known for his Civil War images, Alexander Gardner also documented westward expansion and Indian territory negotiations after the war. The exhibition includes photographic landscapes and portraits of American Indian chiefs and tribal delegations.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum presents “The Modern Pueblo Painting of Awa Tsireh.” The paintings of Awa Tsireh (1898–1955) represent an encounter between Southwestern Native art traditions and American modernist styles.

New Releases

The flute is one of the few indigenous instruments that has survived in American Indian traditional music. Tracks from When the Moon is Full are available at “American Indian Flute Music” on the Smithsonian Folkways website.

All American Indian Heritage month programs at the Smithsonian are subject to change. Unless otherwise indicated, Smithsonian Heritage Month programs are free. For more information about Hispanic Heritage Month programs, visit or email For general Smithsonian information, the public may call 202-633-1000.

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